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Toi Degree column: Check the radon level in your house

By Toi Degree
N.C. Cooperative Extension

National Radon Action Month is a time to increase awareness of radon and to spur advocacy on behalf of those suffering with the emotional, financial and physical burden of radon exposure. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or taste so it could be present at dangerous levels in your home without you knowing it.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States and the No. 1 leading cause among non-smokers, claiming more than 20,000 lives every year. Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk, and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, it can be fixed through mitigation, radon reduction techniques and reduction systems.

This year, the North Carolina Radon Program is giving 3,000 radon test kits free of charge. These are short-term kits, but can be very helpful in determining if there is a presence of radon in your home. They will provide one test kit per household.

Here are a few frequently asked questions that can assist you in understanding radon better and how it makes its way into your home.

My home does not have a basement; do I still need to test?

Yes. All home types should test for radon. This includes condos, town homes, homes with crawl spaces, homes on a slab, manufactured and modular homes and apartments.

Will granite countertops increase the radon in my home?

Probably not. At this time, the EPA does not believe sufficient data exists to conclude that the types of granite commonly used in countertops are significantly increasing indoor radon levels.


How does radon enter my home?

Radon is a radioactive gas that is drawn into your home through a number of pathways. Buildings are like vacuums, drawing gasses of all sorts inside. Radon is naturally made under your home. Then, the suction of the building draws it inside.

May I install my own mitigation system?

Yes. There are no laws preventing you from installing your own radon mitigation system. Make yourself aware of any local ordinances or building permit requirements. Your local government may require a building permit. Electrical work may require a licensed electrician. You may also want to consult with any other governing body such as a homeowner’s association.

I have a radon mitigation system in my home. Can I assume my radon level is low?

No. Some North Carolina homes have radon mitigation systems that were installed in the 1990s. Radon mitigation fans are generally warrantied for 5 years. The recommendation is to test your home at least every five years, whether or not you have a radon mitigation system. This will help you determine if your system is keeping indoor radon levels low.

To get your radon kit, go to the North Carolina Radon Program site to order http://www.ncradon.org/Home.html

Also, here are a few additional sites that you can visit for more information:

N.C. State Extension Healthy Homes – Radon https://healthyhomes.ces.ncsu.edu/radon/

Environmental Protection Agency – Radon https://www.epa.gov/radon

Toi N. Degree is associate family and consumer education agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Contact her at 704-216-8970 or by email at toi_degree@ncsu.edu.

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